Dave Barry Turns 40

Dave Barry Turns 40 book cover

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by Dave Barry
Crown Publishers, Inc. (1990)

Those of us who miss chuckling our way through his weekly newspaper columns should know that we’ve been blessed with an archival library of Dave Barry’s greatest wit.

Barry Books—somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty to date—fiction and non-fiction!

And were this a food buffet, when we made our selections from this hilarious smorgasbord, we’d find DAVE BARRY TURNS 40 in a prime location, down there at the far end where the chef in the big white cap is carving the roast beef.

Hey, the dust jacket agrees: “Whether your fortieth birthday is ahead of you or behind you or today. America’s favorite humorist has stories to tell you about this Major Lifestyle Trend—“. . . when all of a sudden you’re too young for the nursing home and too old to be a rock star. Your body starts talking back, your marriage is as exciting as scraping grass off the lawnmower blades, your kids act like kids, you feel the first rumblings of that dreaded, embarrassing phenomenon called Midlife Crisis, and you begin to care about your gums.” 

Presumed to be aging adults here, we get Dave’s premise—it’s a bitch turning 40—so that said, we’ll offer up an opportunity to do what midlifers do.

We sample!

A busy lot, we tend to consume on the run. That’s why on a weekend you might find any of us wandering aimlessly around Costco or Sam’s Club, pushing past our elders, comping ourselves to lunch, trying every freebie food we can get those aging gums of ours on and then—should we enjoy the hand-out—heading back for more.

So remaining true to that middle-aged habit you might consider sampling these offerings below. Think of them as though they were crisp crackers with Costco’s shrimp dip, humorous hors d’oeuvres that prime the appetite for more.

Barry on the nude-shock realization:
One of the more traumatic aspects of reaching the age of 40 is the realization that you no longer have the same body you had when you were 21. I know I don’t. Sometimes when I take a shower I look down at my body and I want to scream: “Hey, THIS isn’t my body! THIS body belongs to Willard Scott!”

Barry regarding the fact that, “. . . every organ in your body is headed straight down the biological toilet:
“Are you willing to make the hard sacrifices needed to be really healthy? Are you willing to commit yourself totally to a program of regular exercise, close medical supervision, and the elimination of all caffeine, alcohol, and rich foods, to be replaced by a strict diet of nutrition-rich, kelp-like plant growths so unappetizing that they will make you actually lust for tofu? Or are you the kind of shallow, irresponsible person who wants a purely cosmetic change, a “quick and dirty” surface gloss that may make you look young and healthy, but actually has no long-term value. ME TOO!”

Barry offering one final piece of health care for people turning 40:
“You should definitely schedule a thorough medical checkup. Notice I say “schedule.” I do not advise that you actually submit to a thorough medical checkup, because when you reach age 40 the medical profession suddenly develops an intense interest in a  bodily region that I will not name here except to say that the procedure for examining it is so humiliating that even if the doctor says you’re perfectly healthy, you will probably want to kill yourself.”

Barry on marriage at 40:
“After a decade or so of marriage, you know everything about your spouse, every habit and opinion and twitch and tic and minor skin growth. You could write a seventeen pound book solely about the way your spouse eats. This kind of intimate knowledge can be very handy in certain situations—such as when you’re on a TV quiz show when the object is to identify your spouse from the sound of his or her chewing —but it tends to lower the passion level of a relationship.”

Barry on the passion level of a relationship at 40.
“…imagine that the woman feels that their relationship has gone a bit stale, as evidenced by the fact that since 1984 their most intimate moment together was the warm embrace they shared when they found out hat their homeowners’ insurance covered he unexplained explosion in their septic tank.

“So let’s say that one day the woman decides she is going to by God inject a spark of  renewed passion into the marriage, so on her lunch hour she goes to the Frederick’s of Hollywood at the mall and purchases an explicit lingerie  outfit so sheer that you could read an appliance warranty through it in an unlit closet.

“And that night, after the children have been tucked into bed, she puts it on, and when her husband comes into the bedroom, all ready to indulge in his usual highly sensuous nighttime routine of watching the news while flossing his teeth, she is waiting for him wearing nothing but her sexy new outfit and a sultry expression.

“As he gazes upon her, standing there in her most provocative pose, he feels a sudden unexpected stirring of excitement, stemming from the realization that she has charged this outfit on their Visa card. Yes, he can even see the charge slip lying on the dresser. Forty- seven dollars! My God! Here they are already very close to their credit limit, thanks to her incomprehensible (to him) decision to buy a brand-new clothes dryer despite the fact that he was perfectly capable of fixing the old one—he had told her this at least a hundred times—and now here she has spent forty-seven dollars on a garment that is approximately the size of a sandwich bag.

“This is what he is thinking as he gazes upon her, and she can tell immediately that he is not overwhelmed with lust because he is scratching himself absentmindedly in the groin region, a habit that just drives her crazy sometimes, especially when he has promised that he was going to do something useful, such as fix the damn clothes dryer, and instead he spends the day sprawled on the Barcalounger, watching some idiotic televised golf match and rooting around in his underwear with both hands as though he thought the Hope diamond was concealed down there.

“But she is determined that they’re going to have a romantic interlude, and so, licking her lips lasciviously, she steps toward him; and he, finally realizing—sensitive human that he is—that this wouldn’t be the ideal moment to raise the topic of household finances, steps toward her; and they draw each other close; and as their lips meet, a new feeling comes over both of them, an urgent, insistent feeling; and it is of course the feeling of their seven-year-old daughter tugging on them to inform them that their five-year-old son is throwing up on the dog.

“So we can see that it is not easy to maintain a high Romance Quotient in a relationship over long periods of time.”

Barry on the male midlife crisis:
“Basically, it’s when a male, reaching his middle years, takes stock of his life and decides it isn’t enough—that although he has a loving wife, nice kids, a decent job, and many caring friends, he feels that he is trapped—that there is still something more he must do, something that we will call, for want of a better term, “making a fool of himself.”

Barry on common myths about sex and aging:
“The biggest myth, as measured by square footage, is that as you grow older, you gradually lose your interest in sex. This myth probably got started because younger people seem to want to have sex with each other at every available opportunity including traffic lights, whereas older people are more likely to reserve their sexual activities for special occasions such as the installation of a new Pope.

“But does this mean that, as an aging person, you’re no longer capable of feeling the lust that you felt as an 18-year-old? Not at all!  You’re attracted just as strongly as you ever were toward 18-year-olds! The problem is that everybody your own age seems repulsive.”

Barry on midlife and memory.
“As you get older, you’ve probably noticed that you tend to forget things. You’ll be talking with someone at a party, and you’ll know that you know this person, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t remember his or her name. This can be very embarrassing, especially if he or she turns out to be your spouse.”

Barry on how to tell if you’re not only turning 40 but suddenly turning into a Republican.
“It’s very common for people reaching middle age to turn into Republicans. It can happen overnight. You go to bed as your regular old T-shirt-wearing self, and you wake up the next morning with Ralph Lauren clothing and friends named Muffy. Here are some other signs to watch for:

  • “You find yourself judging political candidates solely on the basis of whether or not they’d raise your taxes. ‘Well,’ you say, ‘he was convicted in those machete slayings, but at least he won’t raise any taxes.’
  • “You assign a lower priority to ending world hunger than to finding a cleaning lady.
  • “You start clapping wrong to music.”

Well Dave could go on and on and thank the Lord he did—again there are oodles of other Barry books out there loaded with laughs. But some, you will find, are damned educational. For those about to slug their way into mid-life, DAVE BARRY TURNS 40 is a primer of sorts, one that will guide you with grace through those trying years.

For a copy of DAVE BARRY TURNS 40, ask your librarian, order through your independent bookseller or try Amazon.com, where you can buy Dave’s 1990 guide through the middle years for slightly less than he thinks Social Security will be worth when he finally reaches for that promised pay-off. To order simply click on the book’s cover. Learn more about Dave at davebarry.com.